Imagine it, you think you know how to pack a surfboard for travel, right? Now envisage yourself planning your ultimate surf trip, rocking up at the picture-perfect location, warm blue waters, the tropical sun beating down, 3-4ft a-frames peeling down the reef in front of your room. It’s the stuff of dreams, right? You scramble to get your stuff together for the first session, slapping on sunscreen and pulling on your boardies. Only you get to your board bag, open it and pull out your two brand-new sticks to find both noses crunched. It’s a nightmare.
Unfortunately, this situation is all too common for the avid surf traveler. Whether it’s down to lousy board bag packing or, more likely, mishandling from airport workers, our boards get put through it when we travel. It’s always nerve-racking when you open a board bag, and the further you travel, the bigger the worry.
While nothing can guarantee a damage-free trip, there are many ways you can pack your beloved surfboards and equipment to reduce the chances of rocking up in paradise with broken sticks. Here, we dive into everything you need to know about packing surfboards for travel, from choosing the right board bag, how to pack them correctly, and how to protect your nose and tail. We have a bit to get through, so let’s get down to it.
Choosing The Right Surfboard Bag
First, choose a board bag appropriate to your surf travel needs. This will come down to how much travel you plan to do, where you’re going, and how many boards you want to bring. Whatever board bag you choose, you want to avoid having excess space in your bag. Extra room creates space where things can slide around, meaning boards are more likely to get damaged. Instead, you want a compact, tightly packed bag to ensure everything is snug and protected.
If you’re only traveling to the beach and back, a day bag will be perfect, which gives you a little protection for carrying one board to the beach and back. If you’re going on an overseas trip and traveling by air, you’ll want a proper board bag with great padding and pockets to keep fins and other surf accessories stashed away nicely. If you plan to travel long-term or want to take 3-4 boards or more, you’ll need a coffin board bag. These are heavy-duty surfboard bags, fit 4+ boards, and have room to carry other things such as clothes and surf accessories.
How to Pack Your Surfboard Bag?
Packing your surfboard bag is an art form. You can’t simply chuck your boards in with a bundle of clothes and hope for the best. Instead, you need to prepare and pack to ensure your boards are packed in one solid, ding-proof package.
Preparing Your Surfboard for Air Travel
First, you’ll need to prep your boards. I always like to de-wax and clean up my boards before I travel so that I can arrive with a clean board and new wax job before the first session. A clean board when you pack can mean you don’t get your board socks and bag all waxy. However, this is just an added luxury and not essential. What is essential is protecting your board in a board sock, which provides some extra padding from scratches and dings within the bag.
I use clothes and towels as a layer of padding for my boards, but if you’ve got the room, you can also use bubble wrap. Bubble wrap or cutting the long pool floats in half can protect the rails. The most critical areas of your boards to protect are the nose and tail. I usually stuff a towel or large jacket around the nose and tail. I then pack clothes down the rails to protect them. Anything you can do to protect the essential parts of the board serves as protection.
When packing your boards, always pack them in hierarchical order. This means always pack your largest board at the bottom and stack pyramid style from your largest to the smallest. This prevents noses from being crushed.
Packing & Padding
Ensure your boards are packed neatly; use towels and clothes to add cushion between each one while making sure the nose and tails have even more padding, using thicker clothing items or bubble wrap. Essentially, you want to ensure the bag is packed as tightly as possible, so the weight is spread evenly throughout the bag.
Making sure the weight even helps protect your boards, as when the (usually careless) baggage handlers throw your board around, it won’t land with all the weight at the nose or tail. While we all hope our boards get treated well on flights, it’s unfortunately not always the case. Trust me, I’ve seen my boards thrown on a pile of bags before!
Alternative Surfboard Transport Options
Without a Bag
If you’re just traveling to the beach for a beach day, you won’t need the faff of lugging a huge board bag around, so just purchase a board sock or day bag. These still give some protection and can also prevent the board from getting discolored from being left in direct sunlight. Oh, and from your wax melting.
Shipping a Surfboard
Sometimes shipping a surfboard is a good idea. For instance, if you’re going to Hawaii and ordering boards specifically for North Shore waves or have a custom board order from a different country, there would be no point in ordering your boards home, then flying out with them.
Instead, you can order them to your accommodation in your planned destination. You can ship surfboards with all the most renowned shipping companies in the world. I’ve never done this personally, and although it will cost more than flying boards out yourself, it will save you the hassle of traveling with boards, oh, and any unexpected surfboard baggage fees at the airport.
So there, we have everything you need to know about successfully and safely packing your surfboards for your next trip. The main takeaway from this article should be to ensure you have your boards packed in size order, padded at the nose and tail with any loose bits packed so they won’t come loose. You must also ensure the bag is packed tightly and compact, with the weight spread evenly across the load. This has helped you understand how to pack your board bag, and good luck on your next trip!
Dan Harmon is a content writer and full-time surf travel enthusiast. He travels the world full-time while creating surf content, traveling to the world’s best surf destinations, and hunting out some lesser-known corners. You can follow more of Dan’s travels over on his YouTube Channel, website, and Instagram.